Clemson has a 54-hole total of 891, tied for second with Southern California. UCLA has the lead with an 888 total, while Stanford, a third Pac 10 school near the top is fourth at 893. Ten-time NCAA Champion Oklahoma State is fifth at 895. Thus the top five teams are separated by just seven shots. The field was cut to 15 teams after Friday's round. By virtue of making the cut, Clemson is assured of at least a top 15 national finish. It will be the 20th career top 20 finish for Clemson Head Coach Larry Penley in his 25 years with the Clemson program. He will move ahead of former Clemson soccer coach Dr. I.M. Ibrahim on the all-time Clemson coaching list for top 20 seasons. Penley and Ibrahim both had 19 entering this year.
Friday looked like it would be a bleak day for the Tigers, who were
playing on the five-year anniversary of their 2003 NCAA Golf Championship
at Stillwater, OK. But like that day, Clemson showed an ability to grind
against the course. Through 12 holes Clemson was 14 over par as a team
for the day and was in eighth place, 15 shots out of the lead. But, the
Tigers played the last six holes as a team in even par, quite an
accomplishment in windy conditions. The field, including UCLA and
Southern California, came back to the Tigers, who are still in contention
for the championship.
The Tournament concludes tomorrow with 15 teams competing for the 111th
"I feel very good about how we stand heading into
tomorrow's final round," said Head Coach Larry Penley. "I know on paper
the 11 under par on the front nine yesterday does not equate to the four
over par on the back nine today, but in my mind it was just as good.
"Those were difficult, windy conditions today and to hang in there after
a tough start was quite an accomplishment. The final nine holes kept us
in the golf tournament and we still have a chance to win tomorrow.
"We have to find a way to start better, as we have been poor out of the
box the last two days. The fourth, fifth and sixth holes just kicked our
tales today. On Saturday we will have a later tee time, so maybe the
extra two hours of sleep will do us some good. I know the guys will be
excited that they won't hear that 4:45 AM wakeup call.
"I am proud of this team because the wind did not die down like it did on
Thursday. We played a lot of solid golf on the back nine.
"The 74s that Kyle Stanley and Ben Martin shot today were special. Both
had it at four over par on the back nine and came back strong to shoot
74. When Ben Martin made that eagle on the 16th hole my attitude changed
greatly. I haven't seen a shot like that in a while.
"We are down by just three shots entering tomorrow. That is just one
hole out here. There are a lot of teams in the hunt. It is going to be
fun on Saturday."
Martin had the shot of the day and perhaps the shot of his career on the
par five 16th hole. Playing at what some jokingly called a par six at
608 yards into the wind, Martin hit his drive about 235 yards, reaching
the fairway by just five yards. He then nailed a three-iron under the
wind for about 250 yards, thanks to a good roll down a hill at the
conclusion of the shot. That left him just 110 yards from the flag.
"I hit a full wedge into the wind," said Martin. "I hit it past the pin
and it spun back into the hole."
The crowd, including his parents,
shouted with joy when the ball backed up 15 feet straight into the cup.
About that time Stanley made a birdie on the 15th hole and all of a
sudden Clemson went from 26 over par to 23 over par on the scoreboard.
The 16th, 17th and 18th holes all played into the wind, but Martin made
pars on the last two holes to finish with a 74.
He had a 60 foot
approach putt on the par three 17th hole that could have rolled off the
green had he had hit it too far. He left the approach four feet short,
then made the putt. He got up and down for par on the 18th from off the
Martin could have had a landmark round had he not made a triple bogey
seven on the 477-yard par four ninth hole. He had been even par for the
first eight holes entering that hole. He then shot a 35 on the back
side. Martin has a nine over par score of 225 through three rounds.
Stanley had an unusual round in that he played the par five holes at six
over par and the other holes at four under.
That is unusual for the
sophomore All-American who has a 4.70 stroke average on par five holes
for the year, best on the Clemson team. He made a double bogey on the
fourth hole when he got a bad break. His tee shot landed in the first
cut of rough, but was on track to bounce into the fairway. But, the
shot hit a spectator who was not looking and the ball kicked diagonally
into the deep rough.
On the sixth hole he drove the ball down the right side against the wind
and into the rough. He hit three shots from the rough and his fifth
shot from the sand before he finished with an eight. That put him at
four over par through six holes. But, the native of Gig Harbor, WA
responded with birdies on the seventh, 13th and 15 holes before he made a
bogey on the 16th. He finished with two strong pars, including the 18th
hole when he got up and down from behind the green.
Stanley is tied for second in the individual race with a two under par
total of 214. He trails Kevin Chappell of UCLA, the Pac 10 Player of the
Year, by four shots entering the final round. Last year Stanley finished
second at the NCAA Tournament to Jamie Lovemark of Southern California,
the 2007 Pac 10 Player of the Year.
David May and Sam Saunders both had team counting scores of 77 in the
difficult conditions. May had a double bogey on the ninth hole to turn
with a three-over par score of 39, but he rebounded on the back,
including a birdie on the 15th hole when he drove the green on the par
four hole. May has now played in seven career NCAA Tournament rounds and
has had his score count in all seven.
Saunders had three double bogeys in the round, but still scored a 77.
The talented sophomore made birdies at the first, fourth, eighth and 15th
holes. He was the only Tiger to birdie the par five fourth hole, which
was played into the wind. His birdie on the eighth hole was from 20 feet
below the hole, nearly off the green.
Phillip Mollica, who has been a mainstay of the Clemson team all spring,
and had rounds of 75 and 72 over the first day, struggled to an 81 on
Clemson Tied for Second in NCAAs
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